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those which influence the widow, extends also to the members of her family. What is honourable to her, is honourable to them; what is disgraceful to her, is digraceful to them. Her death, in the discharge of what they hold to be her highest duty, sheds a lustre upon them all; and it is the vice of the tenets in which they have been bred, that her life, if she survives, must be a perpetual reproach to them as well as to herself. With respect to the Brahmins, thinking as ill of them as it is reasonable to think of any class of men collectively, still there are obvious, motives, sufficient to account for their conduct in this particular, without resorting to the violent supposition of a mercenary purpose. They are priests, with all the feelings of the priesthood for the honour and influence of their religion. By a law peculiar to their creed, they are debarred from making proselytes; and their zeal, thus confined within a narrower channel, runs, perhaps, with a stronger current. Believing as they believe, it is not surprising that they encourage a sacrifice which they hold to be acceptable to the Deity, meritorious in the sufferer, and honourable to the faith of which they are the ministers.
There is, at least, no levity in this custom. To ascend the pile, the daughter must sever herself from her parents, the mother must abandon her children, the female must forget the timidity of her sex, and brave death in the most frightful of all the aspects it can assume. The force that can break down barriers like these, that can rend asunder the strongest ties, and subdue the most powerful propensities of our nature, is not to be arrested by any human ordinance. It is the effect of a cause which lies deep in the religious practice and usages of the people. We say religious practice, because it is contended that this rite is not enjoined by any original precept of the Hindoo faith; and on this ground an argument has been built in favour of the facility of abolition. Unquestionably the Hindoo law does not require the widow to burn herself on the death of her husband; nor, although it prohibits her from marrying again,* and prescribes a life of austerity and privation,† does it condemn her to that abject condition, to which she is degraded by the usage of the people. The law respects her rights, as well during her widowhood, as during her coverture. She is the heir to her husband's property, in default of male, and to the exclusion of female issue. (Elements of Hindoo Law, p. 154.) She is enjoined to reside, after his death, with the son or sons of her husband, if he have left any; with his other relations, among whom guardians are to be selected for her.' (Ibid. 243.) Failing relations of her husband, she is to reside with her own, enjoying their protection, and being sub
+ Ibid. p. 243.
* Elements of Hindoo law, vol. i. P. 240. VOL. XXXVII. NO. LXXIII.
ject to their control.' (Ibid.) But, though not prescribed as a duty, burning is strongly inculcated as a virtue: to burn with her deceased husband,' says Sir T. Strange, is inculcated upon the Hindoo widow, not out of respect to his memory merely, but as the means of his redemption from the unhappy state into which he is believed to have passed, and as ensuring, in consequence, to herself (not everlasting indeed, but) long continued felicity.' (Ibid. 236.) Her virtue expiates whatever crimes he had committed, even to the "slaying a Bramin, returning evil for good, or killing his friend." And, for this proof of it, a kind of Mahometan paradise is promised her.' (Ibid. 237.) By the Hindoo law, as well as by ours, suicide is a crime; but the contrary is declared in this instance, the motive sanctifying the act.' (Ibid. 240.) But this part of the inquiry is one rather of curiosity than of importance. Where a custom is of long standing, and the people, among whom it prevails, believe that it has the sanction of religion,* it is futile to reason with them on a mere question of degree.
Let us not undervalue the obstacles against which we have to contend. All measures directed immediately to the practice will be unavailing. It must be opposed, not in its progress, but at its source. Superstition, ignorance, delusion, must be dispelled; new rights, and new duties, must be inculcated; motives, charities, affections, hitherto unknown, must be imparted; mountains must be removed; a moral reformation must be wrought in the character of the people of India. To effect this, or even to undertake it with any prospect of success, time, temper, discretion, judgment, all, in an eminent degree, are indispensable. In whatever light this subject may be viewed, it is beset with difficulties;— 'In darkness, and with dangers compass'd round;'
and he must be endowed with more than ordinary sagacity, who can discern his way to a successful and secure result. At present, we seem to have a choice of evils. If we do too little, we only provoke a resistance which we are not prepared to suppress. If we do too much, we raise a question to be solved, certainly in the blood of our countrymen, and possibly in the summary subversion of that power, on the continuance of which, every rational hope of civilizing, and ultimately Christianizing the Indian continent must depend.
We have, perhaps, wandered too widely from the work of Bishop Heber; but we must not conclude without noticing that it is edited by his widow, to whose notes we cannot pay a higher
Elements of Hindoo Law, vol. i. p. 237. See also the opinions of the pundits at the three presidencies, in various parts of the printed papers, and the summary of the law in the papers, July 10, 1821, p. 137.
compliment than in saying that they might, in most cases, be taken for parts of the bishop's text. It is illustrated throughout with engravings on copper and wood-cuts, all after his lordship's sketches, many of which are highly spirited and elegant. It may not be improper to add, that no publisher has any concern in the property of this book, the profits of which will go entirely to the family of the lamented author.
ART. VI.-1. Report on the Criminal Law of England. (Ordered by the House of Commons to be Printed, April 2nd, 1824.) 2. A Treatise on Crimes and Indictable Misdemeanors. By William Oldnall Russell, Esq., of Lincoln's-Inn, Barrister-atLaw. Second Edition. 1826. 3. A Treatise on Criminal Pleading.
By Thomas Starkie, Esq., of Lincoln's-Inn, Barrister-at-Law. Second Edition. 1822. 4. A Supplement to all the Modern Treatises on the Criminal Law; containing the Alterations by Statute to the Prorogation of Parliament in 1827. By F. A. Carrington, Esq., Barristerat-Law. 1827.
WHEN Mr. Peel, in bringing forward in the House of Commons his plans for amending parts of the criminal law, hinted that a more splendid name might attend the originator of a new code, than could ever be hoped for by any cautious improver of an old system of law, we were pleased to hear it asserted by Mr. J. Č. Hobhouse, and other members, that no fame more truly valuable could be acquired than by steadily pursuing the course in which Mr. Peel himself had hitherto proceeded. We confess, we prefer the plan of inquiring into defects in our legal system productive of actual mischiefs, and remedying these by simple and practical corrections, to any bolder attempts at a general change of system-and this for two reasons: 1st, because we believe that, considering the long-established and deep root of our legal system in all our institutions and habits, and its many and acknowledged excellences, no general speculative plan of innovation could really be so productive of good, still less be so satisfactory to the public at large,—as improvements and corrections of the existing system, contrived so as to leave its main basis and character untouched; and 2dly, because, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the system, we are convinced that gradual correction is the only practicable plan likely to be productive of any speedy results, and carrying with it any prospect of certain success unattended with danger. The confusion, perplexity, and volume of our criminal code
have for some time become a subject of general animadversion and growing dissatisfaction: and while these defects have unquestionably contributed to the inefficacy of the laws, and to the consequent impunity of crime, they were really without any reasonable excuse in the subject-matter of the laws. We believe that a considerable degree of intricacy and complexity must, in such a state of society as the present, of necessity belong to the civil code, which regulates all the artificial and involved rights and interests of a populous, refined, and commercial nation. But the crimes of murder, of larceny, and fraud, are marked by broad and simple characteristics, which the advance of society by no means tends to perplex in the same degree as questions of civil litigation. If any additional reason could be required for directing our attention to the simplifying, and thereby invigorating, the penal code at the present moment, it was furnished in that melancholy increase of crime to which Mr. Peel alluded in bringing forward his bills, and to which all investigations now bear testimony. Whether the game laws, or the demoralizing effects of the poor laws, or their mischievous administration,—or the increase of statutory offences by new enactments, whether any, or, as is more probable, all of these causes united, have occasioned the lamentable increase of committals and punishments, it has become a matter of imperious necessity to improve the criminal code, and thereby bring punishment home, with greater certainty, to guilt.
The great increase of crime, we are pleased to find, is entirely confined to thefts and crimes against property, while bloody and atrocious offences have decreased in a remarkable degree. With all the nominal severity of our law, in practice it has, for many years, made that wise distinction in punishment which Montesquieu applauded: Quand il n'y a point de différence dans la peine, il faut en mettre dans l'espérance de la grace: en Angleterre on n'assassine point-parce que les voleurs peuvent espérer d'être transportés dans les colonies, non pas les assassins.' And the recent repeals of capital punishments, effected by the exertions of Sir Samuel Romilly, Sir James Mackintosh, and Mr. Peel,* have even more judiciously marked the distinctions of guilt, by making the difference in punishment matter of legal enactment instead of royal grace. Out of 14,437 persons who were in custody for crimes in the year 1825, it appears that not less
As the improvements in the Criminal Law, recommended by the two former distinguished legislators, related to the single, though important, point of reducing the number of capital punishments, they do not fall within the scope of our present observations. Sir James Mackintosh's committee of 1819 was expressly limited to the above object,
than 12,530 were on charges of theft. During the last seven years there were 241 convictions for forgery, 111 for murder, 50 for arson, 43 for perjury; while the number of convictions for theft were not less than 45,000-an amount lamentable in itself, but consolatory when compared with the small proportion of crimes of a more heinous dye.
The deplorable increase of crimes in the mass appears from the fact, that in the seven years ending December, 1816, the commitments to gaol in England and Wales were 47,522, while in the seven years ending December, 1825, the number was 93,718, being nearly a two-fold increase in the space of nine years-an augmentation which, we fear, must be considered as five times as great as the advance of population in the same period. During the former period there were 29,561 convictions in England and Wales, while during the latter there were 63,418-an amount which, as compared with the number of committals, proves the alarming fact that not above two-thirds, or thereabouts, of the number of persons committed for offences are found guilty and punished. In either of the two views which this fact presents, it is pregnant with matter of reflection. If we suppose that the disproportion between committals and convictions arises, in any considerable degree, from innocent men being committed on unfounded suspicion, the fact is truly alarming; but if, as we take it to be undoubtedly true, the main cause of the disproportion is the escape from punishment of guilty persons not convicted by reason of defects in evidence, backwardness in prosecutors, faults in the law, and other causes, it surely becomes the most serious duty of the legislature, to render the punishment of guilt more certain by the amelioration of every thing defective in the judicial administration of the country. During the former seven years (that is, from 1809 to 1816) the number of persons sentenced to death was 4,126, while during the latter (from 1818 to 1825) the number was 7,770-an increase about in proportion to the comparative amount of crimes during the periods. But during the former period there were 536 persons executed, while during the latter there were only 579 executions-being an increase of capital punishments of only one-eleventh during a period in which crimes had nearly doubled. We are aware of the many and multifarious causes to which the augmentation of crime may, in a great degree, be traced pretty accurately; but, as long as we find such increase accompanying so extensive a reduction in the severity of punishments, we must consider it as a fact deserving of much consideration, and well calculated to awaken the most serious inquiries into the connexion between severe punishment and the repression of offences. We think it calls upon legislators to be cautious how they consider reduction of punishments, abstract